SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan has welcomed news that Scotland is granting greater access to expensive drugs such as those that lengthen the life of cancer sufferers and has called on Health Minister Jim Wells to follow that example.
The Scottish announcement comes as cancer campaigners here present a 23,000 strong petition to Stormont calling for just such a move here.
Mr Durkan said:
“With a new Health Minister, we have the opportunity for radical new thinking and a sharp change in direction. Jim Wells should now look to the strong example that the Scottish government is setting by making expensive life enhancing drugs accessible to those suffering from terminal conditions. He should listen to the chorus of public opinion, inspired by the brave testimony of cancer sufferers and their families, which has gathered around the campaign for greater access to these drugs for our people.
“Scotland is able to make this announcement as a result of a deal between the NHS and pharmaceutical companies which effectively grants access to the drugs for free. We can benefit from exactly the same deal and our Health Minister should take immediate action to ensure the discrimination faced by those facing serious illness here is ended.
The deal - a rebate - has already seen almost three million pounds handed back to Northern Ireland. For months SDLP have asked where this money has gone and why it wasn’t used as it was intended- to fund radical and otherwise expensive treatments that will lengthen and enhance the life of those suffering from serious conditions.
“It will now be the case, to our shame, that Northern Ireland will remain the only place in the UK where these life extending cancer drugs will not be available. It is a tragic injustice that several of these drugs were discovered, researched and synthesised by local people in our universities.
“These 41 drugs have the potential to alleviate significant suffering and provide a better quality of life for patients. It is a matter of basic humanity that we do all in our power to make them accessible to those most in need.”